Posts Tagged ‘family’

Look out, Vermont!

June 1, 2021

Guess who’s about to leave (at this godawful-early hour) on a road trip to Vermont?

I’m stoked! My cousin Jon invited me to go along with him and his wife, and then my Auntie Pam and Uncle Mike (Jon’s parents-ish) decided to come along – or were revealed to be coming along, your pick – and here we are at 6 a.m., having been up for two hours.

It was funny: you could see our adult-selves winning over our more basic-needs-selves last night when the grown-ups (Auntie Pam) asked us “kids” time we wanted to leave. The three of us locked eyes. It was a five-hour drive. We’re only there for three days and two nights. We have things we want to do. God-blame-it. Leave at 7 a.m. it is. And while I was originally planning on just staying last night at Jon & Nataly’s house, the cookout was earlier in the day and not at their house any more. So I’m being picked up along the way. Which is why I’m up this early.

But we do! have things to do. We’re stopping to drop off one of Uncle Mike’s paintings at a gallery. (My uncle is a bit of mid-to-really well-known plein-air artist; it’s pretty awesome.) Then we’re stopping at the Von Trapp family brewery… which may or may not be the name of it. But it is most definitely where I will be singing the Hills-Are-Alive songs. No, really. I have them all loaded on my phone, and even if I didn’t, I know them all by heart because that is my mum’s favorite movie in the whole wide world and the thing that brings me home quicker than any other memory.

While there, we have many, many walks and outings planned. My family loves a good ramble in the woods. Jon and I just aren’t allowed in the woods together unsupervised, a story which includes tent-sleeping, scary animals, and not telling grown-ups where you’re really sleeping for the night, but that’s a story for a different time. Speaking of, we just don’t learn our lessons, and Jon and I have some night-time excursions planned that everyone else noped their way out of. I just want to find wildlife!

It took me a minute to remember why, exactly. Other than, you know, seeing wildlife just being fun! and bringing out the little kids in us! My need to find an owl out in the wild, see a bat flying in the sky, see one of the bald eagles that have returned to the area, see a bear (in an environment in which I’m completely safe!) – it all started as a need for me to check things off my bucket list. Seeing a bald eagle was originally intended to be viewed in Alaska, but I adapt. Then others started getting added on. Oh! Moose! Mooses are definitely on my list.

What I didn’t know were on my list were wild turkeys. I was shocked beyond all measure when I started seeing them everywhere when I first moved to town. I was shocked the first few times; stopped to take pictures until about time #30; stopped batting an eye at time #50. You could see them crossing the road in a city neighborhood by the wildlife conservatory every day about 4:30 p.m. I’d find them in people’s yards other times. I know a lot of it is because I did so much driving around. But my turkey discoveries reached levels of disgust the other day. I complained to Corrie that I’d seen umpteen-million wild turkeys and not even one single stupid deer while I was home. All these woods, all these deer crossing signs, had I seen one deer? Nope.

And then yesterday a deer jumped in front of my brand new car. Course it did. Thankfully, I was on a side street driving about ten miles an hour and I’m still pretty jumpy about things in my periphery racing towards my car. The young doe stepped in front of my car, saw me, jumped, and skittered across the road, onto a lawn, and was gone before I could snap a picture.

But I still saw it! In real-time, not from behind-a-phone/camera. One adventure down!

Vermont should really look out! And if not all of Vermont, perhaps just the Ben & Jerry’s Factory. Because it is most definitely on the itinerary!

Quote of the Day.

September 26, 2017

Yesterday was my Uncle Teddy’s birthday. And four years is a crazy long time, but not so long that I didn’t have myself a good cry last night.

So of course, the girls were in rare form.

Setting the scene: Gracie walks in on me texting my cousin, and crying.
Gracie: Aw! What’s wrong??!
Me: It’s Uncle Teddy’s birthday.
Gracie: I know! I should not get in the shower [like I had been yelling at her to do], and make you cinnamon rolls and cheer you up instead!
Me: Um…no.

Setting the scene, Part II: Bee walks in on me crying, after I’ve shuttled her sister into the other room.
Bee: What’s wrong, Mum?
Me: It’s Uncle Teddy’s birthday, and I’m texting Uncle Kene.
Bee: You should tell him to go to Crazy Uncle Mike’s house and play with the cup holders that light up. Those are cool.

Like my cousin said – those two might be a leetle bit related to us!

Three years.

January 19, 2017

I saw a dad on the side of a the road, blinkers on, helping his kid change a tire on their own car. I couldn’t help it; I started crying out of the blue. If that wasn’t the signiest sign.

Then I started laughing, like I was nuts – crying one minute, laughing the next – because I wasn’t sure that a bigger sign wouldn’t have been the dad standing there, patiently explaining what the kid needed to do next to change their own dang tire.

In either case: you are missed.

Silly stisters.

August 25, 2016

It’s good to know you’ve got silly stisters, and that they’ve got your back. Especially after a tough week.

I took this great selfie of us while at the Adventure Park, befittingly…


And this one of the girls back at Kim’s apartment. It looks like any other shot I might make them take, but what makes me smile is the story behind the outfits. They hoodwinked into buying them these soft (leather? rawhide?) shirts from Justice, and the matching duster sweaters. Matching outfits, you guys. From the duo who won’t stop arguing and wants nothing to do with being related to the other one.


So there’s hope for them, that they’ll grow into the YaYa-ness of being stisters, is what I’m saying. The silly – well, they’ve had that down for awhile.

Wordless Wednesday

June 3, 2015


Still, no words.

January 19, 2015

Because one year is a stupidlong time.

An incomprehensible phrase.

I’m smothered. Wordless.

Nothing but grief, because I familied all wrong.

Reflection, foreign and domestic.

September 11, 2014

Thirteen years ago, after buildings had fallen, our military headquarters smoldered, and a giant hole in the ground of Pennsylvania lay open, I took a time-out from the crisis atmosphere at work to call my mom. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one; I’m sure a great many Americans called their moms that day, probably a lot earlier than I was able. But I work for a company directly affected by 9/11 and so it was late afternoon by the time I was able to stop for a moment.

It took a while to get through, but when I finally did, despite everything, we sounded perfectly normal. “Hi. Are you okay? Isn’t this crazy?”

Crazy, indeed.

Who would have thought that such anger could exist to wreak such devastation and destruction on buildings filled with innocent civilians?

Who would have thought that thirteen years later, my mom would be so ravaged by Parkinson’s Disease and the onset of its accompanying dementia that I couldn’t reliably call on her to be my touchstone in a world gone mad?

This afternoon my mom is being released from rehab, three weeks after her stroke. She’s not physically ready to be released, and yet. Everyone is distraught, trying to find a solution to a largely unsolvable problem. No one wants to send her back home, back to an unhappy situation where she’ll be left unattended for large portions of the day. My mom refuses to go anywhere but home, to the place she’s spent 36 years of her life. She doesn’t care that she will be left alone with just the TV and a white board prepared by her home health care helper, reminding her what day it is, what she’s watching, what’s on schedule for the rest of the day. She doesn’t care that she might not be able to make it to the bathroom. She doesn’t care that she might not see her brothers and sisters (or daughters) as often, because they feel unwelcome. She wants to be home. And everyone in the family – my aunts and uncles, my sisters, myself – we all want her to want something better. Even if we don’t know what that is.

Crazy, isn’t it? I mean, not so much, but it is all the same.

Thirteen years later, a crisis of an entirely different nature, but it still feels like my buildings are falling down, my family headquarters is smoldering, and gaping holes are left. Coping feels just as difficult, the situation as unfathomable.

And yet. There are moments, for which I am so thankful, when I accept that things are the way they are. When I can connect with friends and see an entirely different side. Mum’s still here. She still has good days. Her stroke wasn’t worse. She has family who loves her. I have friends and family who love me. Thirteen years later and we’re still safe. Still fighting. Still living.

Living. Sometimes laughing. Putting one foot, one day, one more story in front of the other. Crazy, isn’t it?


Thanks, Bill, for making me laugh this morning, and for sending this beautiful red, white and blue sunrise.

Cousins (and uncles) are the best.

April 16, 2014

We had a pretty awesome weekend at Casa de Katie. Sure it was a bit windy (we had a wind advisory five days in a row, I’m pretty sure), but instead of the tornadoes we were supposed to get Sunday, it downpoured, then cleared off and was sunshiney and gorgeous and perfectly warm outside. Even better than the near-perfect weather was the company. My cousin Kene was visiting friends in San Antonio and drove up Sunday to spend the day with us. I know! First my besties came up for the weekend, then my cousin, and then in two weeks Kim in coming to surprise Gracie for her birthday (and to build me a firepit). So many fun visits from home! (I almost wonder if there was a mini-conference with the fam and they decided some well-checks on Katie were in order.)

Kene might only have been in town for the one day, but we crammed an awful lot of fun – and talking, have I mentioned my entire family likes to talk? – into our time together. The girls were shy at first (of course), but as Kene and I sat chatting and catching up, the girls soon crawled out of their shells. It probably helped that I let them get filthy dirty as they experimented with the soaking wet chalk outside on the patio. They made chalk-paint and it was everywhere. But they were happy and talking, so it’s all good.

After the girls cleaned off (a hose probably would have been helpful there), we went inside and Uncle Kene played Mr. Wizard. He taught the girls how to make superballs with borax, corn starch, warm water and glue.


I was surprised that Gracie didn’t grill him down about the science, or ask him the hundreds of questions she thought of during the past week, but I didn’t press her.

After our experiment, we took Kene out for Irish Nachos and did a little sight-seeing in Arlington, showing him how massive Cowboys’ Stadium looks up close and the Rangers’ ballpark.

After dinner, it was back to the patio, to enjoy the warm weather. Kene had to induct Fenway into the brew crew. There may or may not have been pics of Kene teaching his sister’s puppy, Lucy, to drink beer. It may or may not have been so much of a family hit that I demanded a similar pic of him and Fenway. I can neither confirm nor deny. But I will say that Gracie was mortified when I mentioned the possibility. She thought I was going to turn her dog into an alkie. heh.


While we were talking about everything under the sun, the girls were busy entertaining themselves. They jumped rope and competed against each other and kept whacking themselves in the face, and pulled out their glow-in-the-dark chalk kits, which I let them make. Then there was a limbo competition, during which Fenway kept trying to help. And by helping, I mean turn it into a tug-of-war competition.

Kene3 Kene2

After the sun went down and the air cooled off, we moved the gathering back into the house and the girls eventually went to bed. Kene and I talked about family news, how everyone was doing, how his mom was recovering from her lung transplant surgery, marriages, divorces, how many things change and how much stays the same, my ten-year-plan to move home, and of course we talked about his dad. I told him about all of the awkward conversations I’ve been having with those near and dear to me, letting them know how much they mean to me, because I don’t think Uncle Teddy knew that he was like another dad to me. A lot of my uncles are, but we spent so much time with Auntie Cheryl and Uncle Teddy growing up. And Kene said the most wonderful thing, not  to be too sure that his dad didn’t know. And even though I do know that deep down, hearing Kene say that was like a benediction; I felt the boulder of grief that’s been sitting on my chest shift a little. The relief was – is – overwhelming.

So yes, it was a wonderful visit, filled with laughter and good things. After Kene left, Bee said in the car, “I wish we could keep Uncle Kene as our brother.” I started to tell the girls that uncles are even better than brothers because there’s less torture and hijinks involved…but then I remembered all the fun and pranks and craziness my uncles visited on me and stopped myself. Family, in all its crazy capacities, is the best.


The girls called me out to the patio Monday night as I was cooking dinner. They had made a sign and wanted me to post it to Facebook. “We Miss You, Uncle Kene!” it read. Family is the best – pretty sure the girls agree.

One month.

February 19, 2014


It’s been one month. One very long month. One month of ups and downs and and hard moments and easier moments. A month when other friends and friends’ family members have passed away, and each loss made me think of Uncle Teddy. One month in which I’ve learned a lot about coping and grief and grieving what “should be” versus what is. It’s been a very long month, you guys.

My boss’s sister passed away last Thursday. She was a little younger than Uncle Teddy, has two kids – a son and daughter – who are a little younger than Shayne and Kene, but other than her kids, my boss, and my boss’s dad, that’s it. Just a small family. So my boss was dealing with most of the arrangements before and after, because you see she had cancer, one that had been in remission for years and years, but came back and caused all kinds of complications for a few weeks before she passed. A few weeks. It seems so short – and yet, such a long time. I felt awful for my boss as he dealt with everything – family issues, running back and forth to the hospital, his own grief, just everything. And yet…I was so jealous of the closure they were afforded. I spent a lot of time thinking about what was better: being able to enjoy every minute of your life, blissfully unaware? Or being able to say all the things that needed to be said and tidying up what could be tidied? I think I ended up deciding that I would live until I was 119, in good health and in perfect spirits; it seemed a much better option than deciding between two un-perfect choices.

As I was feeling all my feels, I started going through pictures, trying to decide which one to use. Obviously I had many better options. The picture I chose is uncropped, doesn’t really feature the best background, and you can’t even really see anyone’s face. You can kind of see from the corner of his eyes that Uncle Teddy is smiling, undoubtedly at the very animated story little Gracie is telling. But this was the picture I chose. First, I love that he’s holding Gracie again (yes, I know that Uncle Teddy loves little kids, but photographic proof of this for some reason I find endlessly amusing). I love that Gracie, who was a little shy that night (which I suppose was understandable given that she was bombarded by a bunch of people she didn’t know who all wanted to talk to her and hold her) had no qualms whatsoever about telling Uncle Teddy a very long and important story, as evidenced by the fact that she was using her hands for emphasis. I love, too, that he’s sitting there on the couch looking through the scrapbook I brought to show my mom what I had done. Was Uncle Teddy very interested in scrapbooks? No, probably not. I’m sure he enjoyed the pictures, but mostly I suspect he was interested in it because it was something I cared about, and he liked finding out about things like that. He was the kind of person who liked engaging with someone about their passions – unless he thought you were wrong, that is, and then he would very methodically point out why that was. Heh.

There were better pictures I could have posted. But this one is of Uncle Teddy showing me how much he cared by showing interest in two things I loved dearly. And so of course I picked this picture.

It’s been a very, very long month. And grief is hard.

Throwback Thursday

January 30, 2014

Everyone knew Uncle Teddy loved dogs. There were always one or two (or sometimes more) running around the house where he grew up, and dozens more in his neighborhood, and he always had a dog at he and Auntie Cheryl’s house. First was Thumper (I don’t even know if my cousins remember her; she was killed by a delivery truck when I was still little, only I didn’t know that at the time – I only knew she had died). Then came Jade, who Kene and Shayne grew up with. And then came Doughty, named after Uncle Teddy’s mentor and dear friend who had recently passed.

Fewer people knew that Uncle Teddy loved kids. He had a lot of bluster, he could be very prickly, but he couldn’t quite hide the twinkle in his eye when he was giving you a hard time. I’ve said it a hundred times – teasing in our family meant that we liked you enough to harass you. If we weren’t teasing you, either we didn’t care or we were upset. But I’m getting off track – I was talking about Uncle Teddy and us cousins. He would always make time to talk to us, to show us things and explain them to us, and he never talked down to us. He expected us to hold our own.

He did that with his dogs, too. Oh, there were high standards for Jade, Doughty, and (I’m assuming) Thumper. They were very well behaved because they were well-trained. All of this is to say it didn’t surprise me at all to find this picture of Uncle Teddy holding a very young Gracie when I first took her home for a visit. Gracie was seven months old that Thanksgiving. Uncle Teddy came over and took Gracie from me, sat down on the stool in the kitchen, and introduced Gracie to Doughty. He wasn’t awkward with Gracie at all – he had, after all, raised two of his own, and he was a very involved dad, and then there were all of us cousins who were always around our aunts and uncles – and he liked encouraging Gracie’s curiosity about the dog…and Doughty’s curiosity about the new baby in his house. I remember Uncle Teddy lecturing Dowdy about behaving, because of course he would. He probably reminded Gracie not to touch Doughty’s eyes, too. (Gracie, having grown up with the most patient black lab in all the world didn’t know that things like eyes and tongues and noses were usually off-limits.)

It was a small thing, those three off by themselves, with really nothing extraordinary about it. It was just an everyday moment: Doughty being curious, yet so well-trained. Gracie being okay with everyone and everything new around her. And Uncle Teddy being Uncle Teddy.